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Court Reverses Ruling Saying North Dakota Voter ID Law Disproportionately Affects Native Americans

Court Reverses Ruling Saying North Dakota Voter ID Law Disproportionately Affects Native Americans

Many homes on Native American reservations lack traditional postal addresses. Instead, some Native voters often rely on P.O. boxes for their mail, and they are often located outside their voting precincts. The distinction is key, especially when it comes to voter ID. Since North Dakota does not require voter registration, voters can just show up at the polls on election day and vote if they present valid ID. Drivers' licenses and tribal ID cards are accepted if they bear a current residential street address -- and that’s the problem. Although voters can produce other documents such as utility bills, bank statements, or government documents with a current street address to back their traditional postal office, many Native voters’ supporting documents list their P.O. boxes. Members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa sued the state, alleging its ID requirements discriminated against Native Americans. But a federal appeals court on Monday reversed a lower court’s ruling which said that North Dakota’s voter ID law placed a significant burden to Native voters. A three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said a lower court’s ruling -- which had required the state to accept a longer list of potential forms of identification at the polls -- would “irreparably harm” the state ahead of November’s election. Previously, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland had ruled against the state after finding that nearly 5,000 otherwise eligible Native Americans and nearly 65,000 other voters didn't possess a qualifying ID. He added that nearly 49% of Native Americans who lacked a qualifying ID also lacked sufficient supplemental documentation, so around 2,300 would be prevented from voting. Matthew Campbell of the Native American Rights Fund said the “Court acknowledged that thousands of Native American voters will not be able to vote under the State's system, and that certain North Dakota communities lack residential addresses. [W]e plan to continue our fight for Native American voters in North Dakota." More here.

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